When I decided to take this class, I talked to a couple of people to make sure I wasn't going crazy. One of them was former JEMS Managing Editor Lisa Bell, who took the class a couple of years ago. She encouraged me to do it, saying she had learned some things she didn't even know she didn't know, like the difference between a sign and a symptom.
As an EMS editor with no healthcare background, I always assumed (wrongly) that they were fairly interchangeable (especially because they're almost always listed together, as "signs and symptoms.") In fact, I probably used them (wrongly) as such. It was news to me that there was a real, tangible difference.
Like a lot of the stuff I'm learning in the classroom and lab, this made things click for me at work, too. I learned that a sign is not objective, while a symptom is more abstract and less tangible. Therefore, a sign is universal (e.g., tachycardia), while a symptom is more objective, more nebulous (i.e., chest pain). Something that you have to ask the right questions to obtain and really listen to the patient to understand.
That's like the student and editor in me: The student focuses on grades and points, while the editor considers mostly the overall feeling of learning (i.e., the overall call). If I extend those definitions for my experiences in the class, I would say all signs (grades) point to the fact that I'm doing well and understanding the material, and all symptoms (general feeling) point to overall satisfaction and continued excitement.
Next class, we sign up for our clinical (hospital) experiences. I'm already on the list for a hospital that gets some good trauma calls and has some possibly burned-out nurses. Good and bad, I'm looking forward to putting that on my Google calendar, having a firm date to look forward to.
I'm going to leave you with my new favorite song. It ties into pathophysiology and respiration, so I just HAD to include it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFEoMO0pc7k.